Q&A with Mr. Ritz-Carlton at FGCU, Part 2

by Jeff Lytle

Ed Staros Sizes Up The Industry, Jobs And More

The Naples impact on Florida Gulf Coast University’s Lutgert School of Business keeps growing. The Lutgert family developed Park Shore, Naples High School alumnus Chris Westley is its dean and the executive who helped build and manage both Ritz-Carlton resorts in Naples is blending the hospitality administration program at Florida Gulf Coast University into the business school.

Ed Staros is executive-in-residence, mentoring and guest lecturing students in the administration program he helped push and launch decades ago. He still takes to heart Steven Covey’s book, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” and urges students to follow suit.

Ed Staros

This is the second of a two-part question/answer session with the 48-year hospitality veteran. The rest was in February’s Life in Naples.

Question: How will hotels locally and nationally be able to attain sustainable stable, skilled workforces?

Staros: When I took past president of FGCU Bill Merwin out to lunch approaching 19 years ago, we in the hospitality industry here in Greater Naples / Fort Myers were asking the same question. The purpose of my luncheon with Dr. Merwin was to pitch the idea of adding a Hospitality Management Program to FGCU. I told / sold him on the need to be able to grow our own future employees, supervisors, managers and leaders.

Dr. Merwin shared with me the process that a state university has to go through to get approval to add a new school, beginning with a comprehensive demographic study (a Pannell Kerr Forstertype study) to make sure the demographics prove the need.

I then asked Dr. Merwin how much time and money would that take. His answer was $40,000 to $50,000 to hire a reputable firm and approximately three to four months. Then FGCU would need to prove the case in Tallahassee that Southwest Florida needs a hospitality school.

I then asked Dr. Merwin if the hospitality community gave him the money would he be enthusiastic about supporting a resort and hospitality school at FGCU? Dr. Merwin’s answer was yes – 100 percent!

Today the Resort Hospitality Management Program has joined the Lutgert College of Business as a business degree program that covers comprehensive leadership skills in finance, economics, accounting, supply chain, ethics and more.

With thousands of past FGCU hospitality graduates already in the industry and thousands more to come – in addition to recruiting Florida State, Central Florida and Florida International hospitality graduates into the mix — I do believe we will be able to attain a sustainable, stable skilled workforce!

Ed Staros

Question: Can you see the long-term impacts of reservation options such as Airbnb?

Staros: I think Airbnb and other companies like it are here forever. Even Marriott International has a new division called Homes & Villas by Marriott.

That said, it is a different product. I am sure that many families would like to rent a short-term home or villa having the entire family together for what most likely is a lesser price than multiple guest rooms at a full-service hotel. Then again, there are others who enjoy taking their families to a full service hotel and truly being on vacation without the chores of cooking, grocery shopping, cleaning, bed making etc.

I believe there is room for both in today’s world.

Question: Is there anything else important happening in the industry that you care to address?

Staros: There is a topic that I find tremendously disappointing– all of the newly developed additional fees. This phenomenon has been going on in the airline industry for the last two decades and has grown to a multi-billion dollar annual revenue stream. It started with a modest baggage fee and has unfortunately grown for fees for most anything. Now there are major cancelation fees, departure date change fees, return date change fees, seat selection fees, get-on-the-plane-early fees, headset fees and baggage fees!

Many hotels in their effort to not be left out of the world of fees have unfortunately joined in with facility fees, resort fees, cancelation fees and now there are early signs of arrival or departure date change fees.

In my mind, there is nothing more inhospitable, especially when fees are developed solely as an additional revenue source. Who knows? Maybe in the future the hospitality industry will spin off a secondary tier for those hotels who love their fees. That second tier could be named the ACCOMMODATION INDUSTRY? How sad would that be.


Staros: After two years of pandemic-related cancellations, FGCU’s resort and hospitality management programs is happy to announce the 2022 Wanderlust celebration will be held April 22 at The Ritz-Carlton Naples! And to make the celebration even more special, FGCU has chosen two honorees — Michael Watkins, third generation Naples hotelier, and Mike Martin, FGCU president, who has announced his retirement December 2022.

For information on tickets and sponsorship tables, please contact Event Coordinator Angela Bell at angela@gsma.pro or 239-275-5758

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